Program Goals and Background

LCLUC is an interdisciplinary scientific theme within NASA’s Earth Science program. The ultimate vision of this program is to develop the capability for periodic global inventories of land use and land cover from space, to develop the scientific understanding and models necessary to simulate the processes taking place, and to evaluate the consequences of observed and predicted changes.The program is contributing to Earth System Digital Twins by enabling the generation of near real-time data on human land use at the highest spatial and temporal resolutions, useful in simulations of the ongoing interactive processes in the Earth System, that would help operational decision-making, mitigate negative impacts on the system and improve its sustainability.  


The Land-Cover/Land-Use Change Program (LCLUC) Program was initiated as a cross-cutting scientific research theme within NASA’s Earth Sciences program. It currently falls within NASA’s Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Focus Research Area, although aspects of land cover and land use research can be found throughout the Earth Science Program e.g. hydrology, biodiversity, carbon cycle, biogeochemistry, water resources or agriculture. LCLUC-related research can also be found in the Earth Science interdisciplinary studies (IDS), the NASA Applied Sciences Program (HARVEST, SERVIR, Water Resources) and in various program data initiatives such as ACCESS and MEASURES. In addition LCLUC research is undertaken in the NASA Education Program, through its New Investigator Program (NIP) and the graduate level, Future Investigators (FINESST) program. These various research opportunities are found in the annual NASA ROSES solicitation.  A major challenge for the LCLUC program management is to pull together the various land-cover and land-use research activities from the various NASA programs and help the science community to be aware of the different projects and science results that are being generated in different parts of the program. To this end and since its inception, the program has held annual Science Team meetings both for scientists funded directly by LCLUC and those undertaking LCLUC research in other parts of the NASA Program to come together and share their findings. Two Science Team meetings are held each year. One in the Washington area and one in a region where LCLUC research is being focused.

The LCLUC program is a global program supported through regional partnerships to enhance access to NASA assets for regional scientists, and for NASA scientists to leverage regional research and open access to international data and facilitate field data collection. The program continues to serve as a catalyst for regional science initiatives such as SARI (South and Southeast Asia) and  NEFI (Northern Eurasia) through regional networks which leverage local knowledge and resources, strengthening the NASA LCLUC research projects. LCLUC partners with various international programs e.g. START, GLP and SERVIR to hold regional science workshops focused on societal priorities, and policy-relevant land-use science and capacity building, fostering regional collaboration with LCLUC-funded projects. Further, the LCLUC program promotes regional capacity building on land use science, through training on applications and use of NASA data, processing, and analysis. The LCLUC training is a contribution to CEOS WGCapD. Through these different aspects, LCLUC drives international data sharing, strengthening LCLUC research, for example the Harmonized Landsat-Sentinel products, which is a partnership between NASA, ESA and USGS. A partnership has recently been developed with the European Space Agency (ESA) and more recently with the Thai Space Agency (GISTDA) for training young, regional LCLUC scientists. 


The LCLUC Program has a special place in NASA’s Earth Science program, in developing interdisciplinary science with a high level of societal relevance and a scientific foundation for understanding the sustainability, vulnerability, and resilience of human land-use and terrestrial ecosystems. Our focus is on global to regional scale studies. The combination of physical and social science needed to understand the process of land use change, makes this program unique within NASA. The components of the program include monitoring and modelling of LCLUC, interactions of LCLUC with the carbon, water and nitrogen cycles, LCLUC feedbacks with the climate system, and LCLUC impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, environmental goods and services, and the management of natural resources (e.g. through agriculture and forestry). To this end, LCLUC is developing a partnership with the NASA Applied Sciences Program which can apply the LCLUC scientific findings to address natural resource management questions.

Connections and Partnerships

At the interagency level and as part of the USGCRP, LCLUC is contributing directly to interagency cooperation through the USGCRP (formerly US CCSP).  NASA LCLUC is already addressing questions being raised by the international initiatives on Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation and the UN Sustainable Development Goals(SDG). Over the years, partnerships have been developed with other agencies such as USGS, USFS, USDA and USAID. Scientists from the USFS, USDA and USGS are often funded by the LCLUC program through the program’s peer-reviewed competitive process. A partnership activity was developed with the USGS around the Global Land Survey (GLS) 2005 and 2010 in providing global orthorectified Landsat-class data. More recently the USGS is participating in the LCLUC-supported Harmonized Landsat Sentinel (HLS) project. The program management is interested in continuing to strengthen interagency and international collaboration on data and research to further our understanding of land cover and land use change.

LCLUC is a global program: global satellite-derived data sets are developed through this program and process and modelling studies are funded in various regions of the World. Involvement of regional scientists in our research projects is strongly encouraged, both to strengthen the studies through the input of regional expertise but also to enhance regional scientist’s access NASA assets and policy-makers to benefit from the scientific results and data initiatives. The LCLUC Program has contributed to NASA’s regional experiments, such as the Larger Basin experiment for the Amazon (LBA) and the North American Carbon Program (NACP) and USAID’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE). LCLUC has been instrumental in the development of a number of other integrated regional science programs. In particular the integrated land use projects of the LCLUC Program helped significantly with the early development Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative (NEESPI) and its follow-on project Northern Eurasia Future Earth Initiative (NEFI) and the expansion of the Monsoon Asia Integrated Research Study (MAIRS) Program beyond China. The most recent regional initiative supported by LCLUC is the South and Southeast Asia Regional Initiative (SARI).

At the international program level the LCLUC program is aligned with the scientific goals of the IGBP/IHDP Global Land Project (GLP) and the Integrated Land Ecosystem-Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS), Future Earth’s Food, Water, Energy Nexus research and a number of contributory projects to those programs are funded by LCLUC. The LCLUC program is a major contributor to the international Global Observation of Forest Cover – Global Observation of Landcover Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD). In particular LCLUC has benefited from and contributed to the GOFC-GOLD Regional Networks. GOFC-GOLD is contributing directly to the GEOSS Program. The LCLUC Program also supports the Fire Project Office of GOFC-GOLD and is contributing to the Land Product Validation (LPV) Working Group of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). The more applied aspects of LCLUC research are also relevant to the international Group on Earth Observations (GEO) program.